Renovation Game Changer for Fondren Hill
Someone just dropped a chunk of change in a Fondren residential property.
State Street Group wants potential residents to know their Fondren Hill Apartments off Lakeland Drive may be out of sight, but shouldn’t be out of mind.
After the recent completion of a two-year, $1 million renovation on the ninety-six unit property, Fondren Hill thinks of itself as a hidden gem, just off the beaten path.
John Ditto, president of State Street Group, says the company purchased the property in 1997 and did renovations then. “But that’s been nearly twenty years ago,” he explains, proud of the work they have just finished in the last couple of months.
“All the vinyl siding has come down and been replaced with Hardy board,” he tells. “We’ve replaced the roofs, put in new windows and doors (painted a funky orange Ditto didn’t originally like – ‘But I do now,’ he laughs).” “Fondren,” as they affectionately call it, has updated on-site security, built new patio fences, installed new balcony railing and planted new landscaping, along with upgrading their laundry rooms. Now, as former residents move out, interiors are being freshened, too. “It looks better than it ever has, as good as any in town.”
Natalie Fish has managed Fondren Hill and another State Street property, Vieux CarrÃ© Apartments, for ten years (Danielle Manning is assistant manager and runs Fondren Hill day to day). Fish says Fondren’s units are split level apartments and are large by some standards, their one bedroom at 700 square feet ($865/month) and their two bedroom just over 1,000 square feet ($1,150 per month). Appliances are included (with washer dryer connections in two bedroom units), a pool, a gazebo, two laundry rooms for each building, pest control services and on-site maintenance. Recently, they began accepting renters with pets.
Fondren Hill and Vieux CarrÃ©, on the I-55 West frontage road at Eastover Drive, both cater to young professionals, many in various graduate programs at UMMC (the UMMC Green Line shuttle runs just outside Fondren Hill’s front gate). While walkability is Fondren Hill’s selling point, Vieux CarrÃ©’s is charm. Their 115 one, two and three bedroom apartments invoke a New Orleans feel and sit on property that spreads out, creating a park-like atmosphere.
Fish says both Fondren Hill and Vieux CarrÃ© have done very well in the decade she’s been here. “It’s all about word of mouth,” she notes of their success. “You’re in the middle of dining and retail and so close to everything, so we’ve never had to worry too much (about vacancies). But with other developments coming up, we want to be recognized, too. People appreciate tucked way, but they do need to know about us.”
Indeed, the residential high-rise, The Meridian, is just outside Fondren Hill’s back door. Ditto is a partner in SKD Development, who is managing The Meridian. With two very different properties, he says it’s about options. “I liken it to (going to) Disney and staying in the Grand Floridian or the Contemporary,” Ditto explains. “Both are immaculate but they are at different price points.”
The Meridian is new and more urban, at a higher rent. But units at Fondren Hill are a bit larger, at a lower monthly cost. “We see The Meridian as a plus,” Ditto points out. “Because at the end of day, as popular as this neighborhood is, there are still not many apartments here.”
Ditto says, though renovations were costly and time consuming, it’s a long-term investment he believes in. “When we bought Fondren Hill, Fondren wasn’t as much of an attraction. Now, it’s a destination. More restaurants and retail are locating here and the neighborhood is more popular everyday. (We’ve put this effort in because) we want everyone to have a place to live in Fondren.”